New books

New books March 2020

A selection of new books released in the UK in the next month.

House of Glass by Hadley Freeman

From the publisher, HarperCollins:

Hadley Freeman knew her grandmother Sara lived in France just as Hitler started to gain power, but rarely did anyone in her family talk about it. Long after her grandmother’s death, she found a shoebox tucked in the closet containing photographs of her grandmother with a mysterious stranger, a cryptic telegram from the Red Cross, and a drawing signed by Picasso.

This discovery sent Freeman on a decade-long quest to uncover the significance of these keepsakes, taking her from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island to Auschwitz. Freeman pieces together the puzzle of her family’s past, discovering more about the lives of her grandmother and her three brothers, Jacques, Henri, and Alex. Their stories sometimes typical, sometimes astonishing—reveal the broad range of experiences of Eastern European Jews during Holocaust.

This thrilling family saga is filled with extraordinary twists, vivid characters, and famous cameos, illuminating the Jewish and immigrant experience in the World War II era. Addressing themes of assimilation, identity, and home, this powerful story about the past echoes issues that remain relevant today.

When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann

From the publisher, Simon and Schuster:

In this remarkably moving memoir, Ariana Neumann dives into the secrets of her father’s past: years spent hiding in plain sight in wartorn Berlin, the annihilation of dozens of family members in the Holocaust, and the courageous choice to build anew.

As a child in Venezuela, Ariana Neumann is fascinated by the enigma of her father, who appears to be the epitome of success and strength, but who wakes at night screaming in a language she doesn’t recognise. Then, one day, she finds an old identity document bearing his picture – but someone else’s name.

From a box of papers her father leaves for her when he dies, Ariana meticulously uncovers the extraordinary truth of his escape from Nazi-occupied Prague. She follows him across Europe and reveals his astonishing choice to assume a fake identity and live out the war undercover, spying for the Allies in Berlin – deep in the ‘darkest shadow’. Having known nothing of her father’s past, not even that he was Jewish, Ariana’s detective work also leads to the shocking discovery that a total of twenty-five members of the Neumann family were murdered by the Nazis.

Spanning nearly ninety years and crossing oceans, When Time Stopped is a powerful and beautifully wrought memoir in which Ariana comes to know the family that has been lost – and, ultimately, her own beloved father.

Rebuilding Jewish Life in Germany by Jay Howard Geller and Michael Meng

From the publisher, Rutgers University Press:

Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, 100,000 Jews live in Germany. Their community is diverse and vibrant, and their mere presence in Germany is symbolically important. In Rebuilding Jewish Life in Germany, scholars of German-Jewish history, literature, film, television, and sociology illuminate important aspects of Jewish life in Germany from 1949 to the present day.  In West Germany, the development of representative bodies and research institutions reflected a desire to set down roots, despite criticism from Jewish leaders in Israel and the Diaspora.  In communist East Germany, some leftist Jewish intellectuals played a prominent role in society, and their experience reflected the regime’s fraught relationship with Jewry.  Since 1990, the growth of the Jewish community through immigration from the former Soviet Union and Israel have both brought heightened visibility in society and challenged preexisting notions of Jewish identity in the former “land of the perpetrators.”

Osnabruck Station to Jerusalem by Helene Cixous 

From the publisher, Fordham University Press:

For about eighty years, the Jonas family of Osnabruck were part of a small but vibrant Jewish community in this mid-size city of Lower Saxony. After the war, Osnabruck counted not a single Jew. Most had been deported and murdered in the camps, others emigrated if they could and if they managed to overcome their own inertia. It is this inertia and failure to escape that Helene Cixous seeks to account for in Osnabruck Station to Jerusalem.

Vicious anti-Semitism hounded all of Osnabruck’s Jews long before the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933. So why did people wait to leave when the threat was so patent, so in-their-face? Drawn from the stories told to Cixous by her mother, Eve, and grandmother, Rosalie (Rosi), this literary work reimagines fragments of Eve’s and Rosi’s stories, including the death of Eve’s uncle, Onkel Andre. Piecing together the story of Andreas Jonas from what she was told and from what she envisages, Cixous recounts the tragedy of the one she calls the King Lear of Osnabruck, who followed his daughter to Jerusalem only to be sent away by her and to return to Osnabruck in time to be deported to a death camp.

Cixous wanders the streets of the city she had heard about all her life in her mother’s and grandmother’s stories, digs into its archives, meets city officials, all the while wondering if she should have come. These hesitations and reflections in the present, often voiced in dialogues staged with her own son or daughter, are woven with scenes from her childhood in Algeria and the half-remembered, half-invented stories of the Jonas family, making Osnabruck Station to Jerusalem one of the author’s most intensely engaging books.

Historians at the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial: Their Role as Expert Witnesses by Mathew Turner

From the publisher, I.B. Tauris:

The Frankfurt Auschwitz trial was a milestone event in West German history. Between 1963 and 1965, twenty-two former Auschwitz personnel were tried in Frankfurt am Main. It was a trial that saw the engagement of four of the nation’s leading historians as expert witnesses – Martin Broszat, Hans Buchheim, Helmut Krausnick, and Hans-Adolf Jacobsen – appointed by the prosecution to give evidence pertaining to the historical and organisational context of the Holocaust. Following the trial, the reports of these historians were published in a bestselling book, Anatomie des SS-Staates (Anatomy of the SS State) and Mathew Turner here investigates the relationship between the trial and this publication. In recent years, more attention has been paid to the intersection between history and law that accompanies historians’ entry into the courtroom. Very little, however, has been written about this intersection with a focus on a single case study. Based on original research in several German archives and first-hand interviews, Turner addresses these connections through a study of West Germany’s most famous trial, and the monumental work of history produced from the engagement of historical expertise in court.

To Meet in Hell: Bergen-Belsen, the British Officer Who Liberated It, and the Jewish Girl He Saved by Bernice Lerner

From the publisher, Amberley Publishing:

On April 15, 1945, Brigadier H. L. Glyn Hughes entered Bergen-Belsen for the first time. Waiting for him were 10,000 unburied, putrefying corpses and 60,000 living prisoners, starving and sick. One month earlier, 15-year-old Rachel Genuth arrived at Bergen-Belsen; deported with her family from Sighet, Hungary, in May of 1944, Rachel had by then already endured Auschwitz, the Christianstadt labor camp, and a forced march through the Sudetenland. In To Meet In Hell, Bernice Lerner follows both Hughes and Genuth as they move across Europe toward Bergen-Belsen in the final, brutal year of World War II. The book begins at the end: with Hughes’s searing testimony at the September 1945 trial of Josef Kramer, commandant of Bergen-Belsen, along with forty-four SS and guards. ‘I have been a doctor for thirty years and seen all the horrors of war,’ Hughes said, ‘but I have never seen anything to touch it.’ The narrative then jumps back to the spring of 1944, following both Hughes and Rachel as they navigate their respective forms of wartime hell until confronting the worst: Christianstadt’s prisoners, including Rachel, are deposited in Bergen-Belsen, and the British Second Army, having finally breached the fortress of Germany, assumes control of the ghastly camp after a negotiated surrender. Though they never met, it was Hughes’s commitment to helping as many prisoners as possible that saved Rachel’s life. Drawing on a wealth of sources, including Hughes’s papers, war diaries, oral histories, and interviews, this gripping volume combines scholarly research with narrative storytelling in describing the suffering of Nazi victims, the overwhelming presence of death at Bergen-Belsen, and characters who exemplify the human capacity for fortitude. Lerner, Rachel’s daughter, has special insight into the torment her mother suffered. The first book to pair the story of a Holocaust victim with that of a liberator, To Meet In Hell compels readers to consider the full, complex humanity of both.

Hitler’s Jewish Refugees: Hope and Anxiety in Portugal by Marion Kaplan

From the publisher, Yale University Press:

This riveting book describes the experience of Jewish refugees as they fled Hitler to live in limbo in Portugal until they could reach safer havens abroad. Drawing attention not only to the social and physical upheavals of refugee life, Kaplan highlights their feelings as they fled their homes and histories while begging strangers for kindness. An emotional history of fleeing, this book probes how specific locations touched refugees’ inner lives, including the borders they nervously crossed or the overcrowded transatlantic ships that signaled their liberation.

From Left to Right: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the New York Intellectuals, and the Politics of Jewish History by Nancy Sinkoff

From the publisher, Wayne State University Press:

From Left to Right: Lucy S. Dawidowicz, the New York Intellectuals, and the Politics of Jewish History is the first comprehensive biography of Dawidowicz (1915-1990), a pioneer historian in the field that is now called Holocaust studies. Dawidowicz was a household name in the postwar years, not only because of her scholarship but also due to her political views. Dawidowicz, like many other New York intellectuals, was a youthful communist, became an FDR democrat midcentury, and later championed neoconservatism. Nancy Sinkoff argues that Dawidowicz’s rightward shift emerged out of living in prewar Poland, watching the Holocaust unfold from New York City, and working with displaced persons in postwar Germany. Based on over forty-five archival collections, From Left to Right chronicles Dawidowicz’s life as a window into the major events and issues of twentieth-century Jewish life. From Left to Right is structured in four parts. Part 1 tells the story of Dawidowicz’s childhood, adolescence, and college years when she was an immigrant daughter living in New York City. Part 2 narrates Dawidowicz’s formative European years in Poland, New York City (when she was enclosed in the European-like world of the New York YIVO), and Germany. Part 3 tells how Dawidowicz became an American while Polish Jewish civilization was still inscribed in her heart and also explores when and how Dawidowicz became the voice of East European Jewry for the American Jewish public. Part 4 exposes the fissure between Dawidowicz’s European-inflected diaspora nationalist modern Jewish identity and the shifting definition of American liberalism from the late 1960s forward, which also saw the emergence of neoconservatism. The book includes an interpretation of her memoir From that Place and Time, as well as an appendix of thirty-one previously unpublished letters that illustrate the broad reach of her work and person.

Dawidowicz’s right-wing politics, sex, and unabashed commitment to Jewish particularism in an East European Jewish key have resulted in scholarly neglect. Therefore, this book is strongly recommended for scholars and general readers interested in Jewish and women’s studies.

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